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Terror was an ‘inspiration for black boxers’

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His failure to defend his title notwithstanding, Ngatane said Mathebula should always be remembered as a great boxer who inspired a lot of fighters

The general narrative around Peter “Terror” Mathebula has been that while he was a great boxer, his lack of discipline ensured he lost his WBA flyweight title in his first defence.

It has been said that upon making history by becoming the first black man to win a world boxing title, by beating South Korea’s Tae Kim Shik in Los Angeles in 1980, Mathebula – who died aged 67 on Saturday – slacked in his training and ate carelessly. No wonder, they say, he went down in the seventh round to Argentinian Santos Lacier at Orlando Stadium in 1981.

Dr Peter Ngatane, a long-serving member of the sport who fought out of the Dube Club in his youth, says nothing could be further from the truth. “All that happened after Terror became champion was that his handlers failed him. For those of us on the outside, looking in we saw it as a case of him not being given the opportunity to defend his title,” Ngatane said.

Ngatane reasons that with it being during the height of apartheid, it appeared as if white people were perhaps not really pleased to have a black man enjoying such success.

“His white trainer and handlers should have known that the guy should have gone into a camp for the title defence. And instead they kept parading him all over, taking him to white municipalities and dinners. People say he ate a lot. But that only happened because he was being taken to party after party in suits even during the week when he should have been training,” Ngatane said.

His failure to defend his title notwithstanding, Ngatane said Mathebula should always be remembered as a great boxer who inspired a lot of fighters.